As ISIS continues its offensive against the Kurds in the north of Iraq, hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled into the mountains, including 40,000 members of Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority.
The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has called on the U.S. to deliver military aid in order to assist its Peshmerga in fighting ISIS.
Since ISIS began its advance against the Kurds, an estimated 200,000 civilians have fled, the majority of which are from the minority Yazidi population. The Yazidis are ethnically Kurdish, but the group practices their own religion which ISIS considers heretical.
As many as 40,000 Yazidis are trapped on a barren mountain and are being slowly starved to death by ISIS.
The region that the Yazidis had inhabited was not officially a part of the KRG, but had fallen under Peshmerga protection after ISIS’s blitz across Iraq in June. The Peshmerga maintained a 650-mile border with ISIS, but the group had warned for weeks that it was under-equipped and couldn’t hold ISIS at bay indefinitely.
To make matters worse, the Peshmerga had not been receiving military supplies or salaries from the Iraqi central government.
This deficit has given ISIS a significant edge over the Kurdish fighters, as the jihadists’ arsenal includes a large number of looted weapons from Iraqi military bases. On Monday the KRG appealed to the U.S. for further military aid.
“Christians and the Yezidis must be protected. We do not wish to face this war alone. The international community must act and the U.S. should take its responsibility. We need advanced weapons and ammunition to fight the terrorists,” Falah Mustafa, the KRG foreign minister, told Rudaw.
So far, the U.S. has been unwilling to arm the Kurds for fear that such an action may lead to a further dissolution of a fracturing Iraqi state. In a State Department briefing on Monday, Spokesperson Jen Psaki sidestepped any questions regarding further U.S. military assistance to the Kurds.
Psaki said that the White House was monitoring the situation closely and that “facilitating cooperation and direct assistant between Baghdad and Erbil” was a part of the White House’s focus.
The U.S. has taken this approach on other issues as well. The U.S. has recently moved towards discouraging the KRG from selling its oil independent of Baghdad, as when a federal judge ordered the seizure of KRG oil carried in a tanker off of the Texas coast.
The sudden advance of ISIS against the Peshmerga has brought Baghdad and the KRG closer together in some respects, though. Baghdad has ordered the Iraqi Air Force to begin providing air support for the Peshmerga during any future offenses against ISIS.
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